Converted: How Santa Catalina Changed My Life

Calm down – I didn’t move to the monastery down the street.

Santa Catalina Monastery in Arequipa
Santa Catalina Monastery –a city within a city for 450 years. I can see the side of it from the balcony.

Rather, my thinking has been “converted” in terms of housing.

Finding a place to live is always a major part of a move. So, I have decided to live in hostels/hotels. While I can’t afford The Ritz like Coco Channel, the Hollywood Hills like Robert De Niro or various hotels like Keanu Reeves there are decent places available for reasonable prices in South America.

I am paying less to stay at the Hostel Santa Catalina – and liking it more — than I was in Loja or Machala.

The logic

Massive door in the front of the building.

Since I will continue to live on 180-day visas it makes sense not to get involved with apartments. I never want to furnish one again as I did in Loja. Disaster, really as I was there for four months. But I did make friends with Agosto and Darwin, so that makes it all worth while.

I’m also over B&Bs and sharing a flat.

The first two weeks in Arequipa reminded me of why I avoid the suburbs. I break out in a red rash and get itchy just thinking about it.

With the Internet, it is easy to make a reservation, use the place as a base, and suss out the other hostels in the city. Check in for a week. If it doesn’t feel right, move. With one suitcase, a carry-on, and a handbag it doesn’t take all that much. Long-term stays are also eligible for considerable discounts.

The other perks are that the room is cleaned, the sheets are washed, and the utility bills are paid. No deposits, no leases, no having to give notice. The angst of “finding” a place has disappeared. Give me the hostel life.

The must-have list

  • Safe
  • Central
  • Clean
  • Strong wi-fi
  • Desk
  • Natural light
  • Private bathroom
  • Kitchen privileges
  • 24-hour hot water
  • No audible kids, dogs or evangelicals.

The plan

After Canada, I want to move to Barranquia. It is a tropical city on the coast of Colombia that I have always wanted to visit. So why not live there? And the bird that Bella – my great-grandmother – gave me when I was five years old goes with me. It is battered and chipped and cracked, but it doesn’t matter. We bonded.

The bird is with me

If I find a place I really like there I can go to Panama for a weekend and stay for another 180 days in 2020. Then again, I might just decide to move to Uruguay.

Guest Posts

DIY Travel Hacks That Will Change How You Pack Forever

DIY Travel Hacks That Will Change How You Pack Forever

Admit it, packing for your trip can be both fun and stressful. It only depends on how you do it to determine which will outweigh the other. This is an integral part of traveling, especially when you’re going to a far off place. At times, you’re going to need to bring a lot of stuff to ensure that your trip will be a comfortable and easy experience. But with that, comes the hassle of fitting them all in your baggage and hoping you don’t break any airport rules. You’d also want all the stuff inside your luggage to be well-maintained by the time you arrive at your destination and open your bags up. 

Just because packing can be challenging doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. It’s all about finding the right ways in bringing along all your necessities and more. Nowadays, there are even all sorts of travel hacks you can do to make packing a whole lot easier. Check some of them out.

Weigh Your Bag With You

The weight of your luggage is one of the strictest limits of all the airport rules. They can also vary from country to country, as well universal limits laid out by international bodies for the safety of world travel. But how can you assure that your luggage doesn’t exceed such? Weigh them together with yourself. If the combination of your weight and that of your bags haven’t reached the limit, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you can always gauge how much to take off to still stay within the aforementioned weight limit.

Zip-locks are Your Bestfriends

At times, you’re going to have to bring liquids that are necessary for your everyday life, regardless of where you are. But this will also lead you to worry about them spilling onto your clothes and other belongings. A surefire way to prevent this from happening is to place all your liquids inside zip-locks. Your perfumes, mouthwash, liquid makeup, and more will stay secure inside these nifty plastic containers. They also won’t take up as much space in your luggage.

Pack some Clothes inside Your Carry-On

You never know what might happen on your flight or wherever you end up on before you reach your destination. You can, however, be prepared for anything. If you suddenly need to change your clothes, for example, packing some inside your carry-on will do wonders. A drink can spill on your outfit or your seatmate might accidentally vomit all over you (it has happened!). Whatever it is, at least having some clothes handy will save you a lot of time and less humiliation on your trip.

Roll Your Clothes

Wherever you go, it’s important that you secure your bag to not lose anything or leave it vulnerable to thieves. But securing your luggage is more difficult if your the bulk of your clothes won’t allow it to close properly. With this in mind, try rolling your garments instead of folding them. doing so can leave a lot of extra space and allows you to bring along as many clothes as you think you need. Ultimately, it’ll also be a lot easier to close your baggage and have it stay closed throughout your flight.

Turn Jackets Inside Out

This hack will certainly help you in your business meetings or elegant affairs you’ll attend overseas. a jacket is a quick and easy wardrobe piece that can turn any outfit instantly dressier and more appropriate for business or more sophisticated events. But how can you avoid it getting wrinkled during your flight? Turn it inside out. This way, the lining is more exposed to external forces that’ll wrinkle the garment. And when you turn it right-side-in again, the outer appearance of the jacker will still look smooth.

Overhead view of suitcase being packed for vacation

Belts Help keep Collars Stiff

When it comes to your inner garments, the most challenging ones are ensuring the quality of your shirts while you travel. You should note that despite any earlier hack, crisp shirts for evening or business attire should not be rolled up. And in order to keep the collars stiff, roll up your belt and place it within the neck area of the garment. This will keep the collar straight, stiff, and you won’t even need to iron it again when you land.

Place Gadgets and Other Fragiles in Between Clothes

If you have an important business meeting overseas and you’re going to need your laptop and other gadgets for it, you have to ensure that they’ll stay safe within your luggage during your flight. One thing you can do is to place them in between your clothes. The more layers there are protecting them, the more they’ll stay safe inside your bags. More than one layer will do for both below and above your gadgets to ensure such safety. But if you pack them in your carry-ons instead, wrap them with the clothes you’ll be bringing along inside the bag.

Always Bring your USB Wire

If you suddenly lose your charger but you really need to charge your phone, your USB wire is all you really need. Certain establishments, particularly in airports and in convenience stores, you can find designated areas wherein you can simply connect your phone to your USB wire and it’ll automatically charge your phone. In your hotel room, you can also connect them through the slots at the back of your TV. As long as you have your wire, you can charge practically anywhere you go within the city.

Store Items inside Old Sunglass Cases

Sometimes, the worst items to pack are the smallest ones. Jewelry, gadgets accessories, and the like. You’d like them to safe and secure inside your bag, but since they’re so small, it’s easy to lose them and you’ll have to ravage throughout all your belongings to find them. But not anymore. If you have old sunglass cases lying around, you can use them to store all your precious. Your earphones will probably benefit the most, as it won’t end up tangled by the time you land on your destination.

Refill Old Toothpase Bottles

Don’t waste your money by buying multiple pairs of toothpaste for your trip. By the end of one, store your empty bottles aside for future use. And when it’s time to travel again, get your normal sized toothpaste (which are usually large) and extract some to put into the stored travel-sized bottles. IT’s easy to do and a lot cheaper than buying a new one altogether.

Don’t let the packing ruin your trip when it hasn’t even officially started yet. These hacks and more will make life much easier for you, both before and during your world travels!



How to Settle in Arequipa in the Andes

How to Settle in Arequipa in the Andes

Settling into a new country and a different city is always a challenge. Since I have done it a few times I’ve developed a list.

  • Find a safe place to live – top priority

    Found a barber.
  • Get a SIM
  • Locate a hairdresser
  • Look for a manicurist/pedicurist
  • Check out the lay of the land

Since I avoid doctors and dentists, that isn’t on my settlement list.

When I arrived in Arequipa, I stayed in a non-descript hotel. From there I searched the Internet and found a place. Llama Spanish school takes in non-student boarders, so it seemed like a good idea. I had a room and a private bath; breakfast and lunch were included.

In the two weeks I was there the dust balls under the bed grew to soccer field size. And if I saw one more boiled egg and banana for breakfast, I was going to lose it.

To block out the noise of the teacher in the classroom next to me I used wax earplugs. It was horrible as the poor student never spoke, he was talked to. The worst thing is that there weren’t any cafes or bars anywhere in the neighbourhood. There was a mall about 20 minutes away, but I didn’t like it at all.  I was stuck in the suburbs. Time to move on.

I was downtown with a young Indonesian student and we happened to walk by the Santa Catalina Hostel.

Massive door in the front of the building.

I went in and asked the price for a single room and told them I wanted to make a reservation. Not a dust ball in sight. Santa Catalina is about a 10 minute walk from Plaza de Armas, the heart of the city. Perfect for this uptown woman.

Looking for a new home

Although I would check on the Internet every once in a while, I didn’t find any furnished place that appealed. After Loja, I never want to buy things for a place again. As I’m currently writing pieces for a travel agency, I didn’t have a lot of time. If there is anything you want to know about Italy or Greece, just ask.

When I was going to pay the rent for another week I asked Rodolfo – the manager and my go-to person – how much it would be to stay for a month. He cut me a great deal, so I now have a “home.” The angst of moving again has faded.

Rodolfo — my go-to person

My bedroom is small and so is the bathroom, but I just don’t need a lot of space as I live at the desk. Rodolfo brought me a second table so I can spread out.

There is a balcony the size of a USB, but I can sit in the chair and watch the street go by. At the small kitchen downstairs I can scramble eggs and heat up leftovers and/or take-aways. The gas stove is powered with a Bic lighter so it is slow slugging.

View from the balcony







There is a charming courtyard for breakfast. And a rooftop deck that overlooks the city with 360  spectacular views.


The staff only speak Spanish, which is good practice.






Leo does a great job of keeping the place clean. 







And there are enough restaurants, bars, and museums to keep a person going for years.

Alpaca steak




A $4 lunch at the market that is enough for two meals.




My only complaints are that the wi-fi is weak sometimes and the noise from the street from 15:00 to 20:00 is horrible. Why drivers in South America can’t figure out not to cross the intersection if there isn’t room on the other side is beyond me.

The stupidity of blocking an intersection with lights to cause a honking frenzy.

And there are too many tourists. After having Loja to myself for four months I have forgotten how to share. I will get over it. Most of the guests here are from Europe.

Although not famous, I am joining the ranks of long-term hotel residents who are. Yes, I have settled and plan to stay here until I fly to Edmonton on 29 May. The only thing left on the list is a SIM, but I have to buy a new phone first.



Getting a boot fixed

The zipper in one of the leather boots I bought in Argentina broke. Rodolfo called a shoemaker he knew. The guy came to the hotel, took my boot, fixed it and then brought it back. The price? $8CAD. I can only think of one place – if it is still open – in Canada where I could get it done. And I shudder to think of what it would cost.

People here still fix things, which is so refreshing.

Exploring Arequipa

Founded in 1540, Arequipa has kept its colonial heritage and is known as the “White City” because of the buildings. Trendy shops and cafes are tucked away in massive old edifices.

The streets are cobblestone. And there isn’t a high-rise on the horizon.

I have fallen in love with this place. Like Medellin, it has a magical feel to it.

More photos from around town                                                    

plaza de Armas

Santa Catalina Monestary –a city within a city for 450 years. I can see the side of it from the balcony.

A guy who stops cars so people can cross the street.

The cathedral in Plaza de Armad

The bird is with me.

Santa Camilo Market




Mark That Date – Saturday 6 June 2020 – for the Historic Hanson Happening

You are cordially invited to the Historical Hanson Happening in Sheho, Saskatchewan on Saturday, June 6, 2020 in the Cenotaph Park. Show up any time after 15:00 and leave when you want.

The 18 months gives you lots of notice so you can organize your life accordingly. 








The committee

Laurel from Kamloops, Cindy from Invermay and Jody –currently living in Arequipa — decided it would be interesting to have a Hanson tribal gathering so we can tell stories and create some memories.

That said, none of the above take any responsibility for the totally unorganized gathering. Whoever shows up is there. Whoever doesn’t isn’t. No RSVPs required.

The food

Cindy declared that a potluck is a good idea. Okay. So, who is going to rock up with a

five-gallon pail of perogies like Grandma Annie used to make? After taking it under discussion, the committee speculated that Arlene – possibly Faye – and/or Gloria and Jamie are the best hopes.

Laurel stamped her foot and declared that she didn’t want any raspa-klubb, even though we found recipes on the Internet — She has too many recollections of those “glue-balls” as she refers to them from childhood.

My plan is to raid my mother’s basement-cellar stash. The calculation is that I will be able to find some buns or bread, enough jams and preserves to feed the army along with lots of other treats.

And there are always take-aways from Willy’s restaurant on Main Street in Foam Lake if you are in doubt about what to bring.

Because this is all unofficial and adhoc, you are also responsible for bringing your own plate/bowl/knife/fork/spoon. No mommies there to look after you.

The drinks

Cindy is the designated finder of pure, clear Ukrainian homebrew. Yes, yes, of course we will burn some to make sure it has a blue flame. Uncle Walter would expect no less.

The hooch-making-still that Grandpa Hans and Uncle Lorne had wasn’t all that far from the house on the home quarter, but Cindy hasn’t been able to find it. Should have been a designated family heirloom.

If you want Fanta or Mountain Dew or Tang like Grandma used to make, you had better show up with it. The rest of us will be swilling back beer, wine or whatever – after appointing a designated driver.

According to Cindy, the RCMP don’t patrol Sheho all that often so we likely won’t get busted. A brown paper bag will do in case they appear.

The activities

Take a preview of the village of Sheho in the – gasp, shock cold winter — – and figure out why 6 June 2020 is the date.

How about digging around to see if we can find the old water pump in the park?  Remember that the running water from Hoffman’s slough was yellow cow piss?

Maybe Billy Hoffman will let us tour the house. Cindy will check.

Another idea is to bring a lawn mower to cut the grass in the park like Grandma used to do.

How about a family photo at the prairie chicken statue? 

At the “Steaked Out at the Queens Hotel in Sheho” gathering my mother headed a tour of the cemetery. Hope we can talk her into doing it again. Until then I didn’t know that my brother’s second




name of “Andrew” came from our great-grandfather Woodhal.






The memories

Do you recall Grandma Annie whacking off the heads of a few more chickens because an additional unexpected six people had shown up for lunch?

How about the massive meals for the threshing crew? Or sit-down lunches for 47 at Thanksgiving?

If anyone is sick, we can get out a bottle of Vick’s Vapour Rub, make a mustard plaster, and pour some hospital brandy. And don’t forget the final swipe of Vick’s under the nose.

Laurel and Cindy recall long walks with Grandpa Hans. And he would buy them pink popcorn at the Chinese Café.

My memories of him are crawling up on his lap and listening to his stories about travelling across Europe, going to South America and then on to Canada. I got the spoon from Neksel — – so I really need to quit whining about not scoring the pink popcorn.

Other grandchildren just remember him as a grumpy old man who stood in front of the television.

How he ended up marrying our grandmother when he was 39 and she was 19 may remain forever a secret.  The Hanson history is what it is.

The plan is to record our memories of the grandparents, the parents, and the neighbours down the road. Anyone else remember Lee Halverson? Whether or not the future generation will ever listen – or care — doesn’t matter. We will have fun producing it.

Now mark Saturday, June 6, 2020 in your diary and start thinking of the stories you can contribute.